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upon younger staff that understands the technology to help bring us on the method. So there is a value to those who have that knowledge already coming on board. I know that’s certainly true for our practice and for various others in San Antonio. For me and my peers –I’m in my mid-30s and a lot of my friends are right in that realm – it still feels healthy for us at the moment. With that said, there is care in understanding that you don’t want to move around. There’s basically no room to move around. People do feel valued at the places where they are. Meaning, I don’t know a lot of my friends who feel their jobs are at risk at the moment. Whether that’s the reality or not is another question. Bro w n I’d offer that it’s not true. They are vulnerable, even though they wish they weren’t. And that’s what I wonder about, the effect this economy will have and how people have their lives set up to deal with what I think is going to happen in this business because it’s going to happen.
other projects that they know are a good investment. Work is still moving forward. A lot of architects have started performing feasibility studies versus providing entire service packages, as I’m sure we’ve all seen. Also, many state schools are advertising for a pre-package all the way up to design development, but not for the entire design package. Clients want to get started, have things going, and then when the money comes in they’ll be ready to roll for the next round. S h a r p e Well, that’s good for architecture. L o w e y-B a l l It’s excellent because you never get sued for those. But it has
resulted in some very peculiar RFQs being released. I read the RFQ, and it actually doesn’t have any intended construction administration phase because they don’t intend. They’re scope definition projects, basically. That’s what they are. S h a r p e And that’s because of the credit crisis?
S h a r p e What role does licensure play in that feeling of vulnerability? L o w e y-B a l l Well, when I see an RFQ it’s like “Well, they want to put this
‘I mean this thing cuts across everything, and if there’s no money, there’s probably not going to be a whole lot of building going on. I can’t say it any more simply than that.’ R e y I’m not sure it matters.
one in the box and have it ready when they have the money.” But there’s no money for it now; that much is certain. And it’s OK; we’ll work on those.
Bro w n Licensure is a whole other roundtable discussion because so few
people are getting licensed for reasons not connected to the economy. The exam has become so complicated in connection to socio-demographics and so on. I think people have their practices set up as we do. I don’t need 35 licensed architects out of 50 staff in practical terms. I don’t require it. That used to be the way of progressing in the firm and certainly the way careers were transacted. It’s an old-fashioned notion of security—because of your license you move up. I think there’s far more specialization within our practices for better or for worse that allows a lot of latitude regarding licensure whether people want to be articulate and honest about it or not. So I don’t know if it really directly indexes to “if you’re licensed you stay and if you’re not you go.” S h a r p e Okay, let’s save that for another roundtable. Let’s talk about areas of practice, and let’s start with the institutional markets—healthcare and university work. Can you quantify the percentages of your firm’s areas of practice and describe how those markets have been affected? Hick s on Because a lot of our private work has gone on hold, we’re now doing almost solely public and institutional work. And institutional work, particularly research laboratory facilities, is about 30 percent of what we do. The research and healthcare market is still growing, even in Houston. M.D. Anderson has put some projects on hold, but they’re continuing with
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Bro w n I see a little of both, though. What we’re seeing is also a perception in the imminent lowering of construction costs. We’re watching a project at a major university drag its feet to expose itself to a better bidding environment. W e l l e n We’re seeing the same thing. S h a r p e And that’s just competition within the market? Bro w n You know I don’t know what’s going to cause it. If you look at steel,
some majors in steel production have actually restricted output. This means steel is going to go up or stabilize; it’s not going to go down, down, down. Copper is stabilized as a commodity although it’s less than it was. Aluminum is stabilized as a commodity although it’s less than it was. But there’s a ton of competition in the labor pool, so that’s the big driver right now. But who knows what that really means over time? Those people also lay off and then have less supply and pricing goes back up with less competition. I think you had a number of easy starts—people who are in the business because it was so damn easy to get into it. On the subcontracting side it’s going to be so damn easy to get out of it when it gets tough and that’ll cause some competition. I don’t know, is that in six months? That’s the debate we have with the university. I’d sure like to earn the CD money
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